IATA urges ‘open skies’ policy to uplift aviation sector in Middleeast

Dubai: An “open skies” policy could lift the region’s aviation sector out of the $200 million loss expected for 2009, an International Air Transport Association (IATA) official Mr. Majdi Sabri has said.

Majdi Sabri, regional vice-president for the Middle East and North Africa, said that the policy would generate more air traffic, and it is one of the unexplored opportunities in the region.

In the region, which represents 460,000 jobs in the aviation sector and generates $17.5 billion in economic activity, a loss of $100 million was suffered by airlines in 2008.

Speaking at the Middle East Economic Digest Airport Projects 2009 conference, Sabri said that the “open skies” policy would help bridge the gap between excessive capacity and demand, which is facing a growth downturn.

“We have invested heavily in our future with over $50 billion being spent on infrastructure and $178 billion on aircraft. In the longer term, we could face an overcapacity situation with airports. Last year, 160 million passengers flew into, out of or within the Middle East. By 2012 this region’s 10 leading airports will have a combined capacity of 320 million passengers per year,” Sabri said.

Restrictive bilateral agreements are “depressing traffic growth” in other regional countries, Sabri said